Monday, 12 October 2009

The Bigger Story

In the Telegraph Matt Lucas and Kevin McGee were once 'married'; while in the Mirror they were married without the inverted commas. In other newspapers and websites they were 'ex-partners' - which could have just meant they were no longer in business together.

When Boyzone's Stephen Gately died on Saturday after a history of depression, suicidal thoughts and possible addiction to anti-depressants, we are left wondering how his story may conclude after tomorrow's post mortem. An accidental overdose seems likely.

Gately was found by his, 'partner' (in the Telegraph) but who the Mail Online calls 'husband', for he and Andrew Cowles had a civil union in 2006. This may or may not mean they were 'married' according to where you read this story. Two things are certain, Gately's Catholic parents didn't attend his wedding/civil union or accept his sexuality.

There's surely a link between this slippery use of language and the mental health aspects of these two tragic stories. Research among young gays in the States suggests those rejected by their families are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. In the UK which has offered civil unions for gays, but not in the same language as straight marriage exposes the fault lines of our inability to accept full equivalence to gay relationships. Gays in civil unions do not have the same status and approval as men and women who marry. How odd does the phrase, 'heterosexuals who 'marry'' seem when we add those suspicious, wary, disapproving inverted commas?

Our newspapers' awkward inability to name exactly who is who and what is what shows us how far we still need to go before gays and straights enjoy the same privileges. And until we do, the statistically greater chance of addiction and even suicide will carry on blighting the lives of gay people.

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